Education is free for all Québec residents, from kindergarten to college inclusively. The Québec public education system is secular and language-based (French and English) according to the language of instruction in the schools. Since French is the official language of Québec, children of immigrants, regardless of their mother tongue, are usually required to attend a local establishment of the French school board until the end of secondary studies. In addition, mixed gender classes are the norm at all levels of education.

School attendance is mandatory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16. The school year begins at the end of the month of August or the beginning of the month of September and usually ends before June 24, for a duration of at least 180 days.

Québec’s education system consists of: elementary (Kindergarten to grade 6), secondary (grades 7 to 11), college and university. University fees are relatively low in comparison to other North American universities.

Between high school (which ends at grade 11) and university, students must go through an additional school called CEGEP. CEGEP is a pre-university (2-years) or technical (3-years) program. In Montreal, seventeen CEGEPs offer courses in French and five in English.

Public schools are administered by school boards (English and French) that answer to the Ministère de l’Éducation Loisiret Sport, which provides financing and determines the nature of the educational services offered. They are administered by school commissioners who are elected by majority vote, so that they are in fact small-scale governments.

The mission entrusted to the school boards by the public is to offer quality educational services in order to effectively meet the educational needs of the young people, adults and organizations in their respective territories, including businesses.

Education in English

In 1977, Québec’s National Assembly adopted the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101), which states that all children must be educated in French until the end of their secondary studies, whether in a public school or a subsidized private school. It should be noted that the Charter of the French Language does not apply to Québec’s colleges and universities or non-subsidized private institutions.

For those students who are not fluent in French, the Ministère de l’Éducation, Loisiret Sport (MELS) offers a variety of language learning support measures in cooperation with the school boards, which dispense preschool, elementary school and secondary school education.

The Charter of the French Language does provide for certain special cases where children are allowed to pursue their studies in English at public or subsidized private schools.

English language school eligibility

Under the Charter of the French Language, children in the following two categories may be enrolled in English-language schools:

  • children who are living in Québec temporarily and who qualify for a temporary authorization to receive instruction in English.

  • children who are permanent residents of Québec and who qualify for a certificate of eligibility for instruction in English. A certificate of eligibility is approved if a child:

    1. did most of their elementary or secondary studies in English in Canada; or

    2. whose sibling did most of his/her elementary or secondary students in English in Canada;

    3. whose father or mother did most of his/her elementary students in English in Canada

    4. children whose father or mother was declared eligible for instruction in English but who did his or her elementary and secondary studies in French after August 26, 1977.

These are the most common cases in which children are eligible for instruction in English, but there are other instances where a child is entitled to receive instruction in English under a special authorization, for example:

  • children with serious learning disabilities as defined in the government regulation made under section 81 of the Charter;

  • children admitted to receive instruction in English by the Ministère de l’Éducation, Loisir et Sport by reason of a serious family or humanitarian situation, following a recommendation by the examining committee, after an assessment by a person designated by the Minister stating that the children’s situation is not covered under any provision of the Charter.

The certificate of eligibility for instruction in English is permanent. In other words, there is no time limit after which it expires.

Children who are declared eligible for instruction in English may pursue their studies in French and still transfer their right to receive instruction in English to their children.

When a child is declared eligible for instruction in English, his or her brothers and sisters may also be declared eligible.

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